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 As part of the closing of all Art Van Furniture stores nationwide, Scott Shuptrine Interiors in the Village has begun liquidation sales. The furniture and home décor store is located in the former Borders bookstore building.

As part of the closing of all Art Van Furniture stores nationwide, Scott Shuptrine Interiors in the Village has begun liquidation sales. The furniture and home décor store is located in the former Borders bookstore building.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Village Scott Shuptrine, Woods PureSleep stores to be shuttered

By: Brian Louwers, K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 10, 2020

GROSSE POINTE CITY — The upcoming closure of all Art Van Furniture stores is impacting a prominent retailer in the Village.

The home furnishings and décor store Scott Shuptrine Interiors, 17145 Kercheval Ave., is a luxury division of Art Van Furniture. Like Art Van Furniture and Art Van PureSleep locations, all Scott Shuptrine stores have begun liquidation sales. The Art Van PureSleep at 19387 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe Woods will be closing as well.

On March 5, Art Van Furniture spokesperson Diane Charles officially announced that the Warren-based furniture chain is going out of business. The announcement came two weeks after Charles confirmed a report in Crain’s Detroit Business that Art Van Furniture was “exploring a variety of options” for its future, and three years after the company announced that it was finalizing its sale to the Boston-based Thomas H. Lee Partners private equity firm.

“Despite our best efforts to remain open, the company’s brands and operating performance have been hit hard by a challenging retail environment,” Charles said. “We recognize the extraordinary retail, community and philanthropic legacies that Art Van Furniture has built for decades in the community.

“On behalf of the company, we want to offer our sincere appreciation to our employees for their dedication, commitment and hard work. We also want to extend our gratitude to the many customers, vendors, franchises, charities and communities who have supported these retailers,” Charles said.

According to the company’s statement March 5, a “difficult decision” was made to “wind down operations and begin liquidation sales” at all of its company-owned stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio.

Scott Shuptrine opened in spring 2015 as the retail Kercheval frontage for the new St. John Medical Center Ralph C. Wilson Campus, at 17141 Kercheval Ave.

When St. John officials purchased the building circa 2014, they had been expecting to have to lease out smaller portions of the Kercheval frontage to two or more different retailers, but Scott Shuptrine agreed to occupy the full 7,600 square feet of available space. It’s not known if the space will now need to be divided to attract tenants, or if a single retailer can be found to take over the prominent corner.

“We are sad to see Scott Shuptrine close, and our prayers are with those associates and their families affected by the closure of the store,” said Dr. Kevin Grady, the president of Ascension St. John Hospital, via email. “We are working to find another tenant that would compliment the character of the Village.”

Founded in 1927, Scott Shuptrine was purchased in 1987 by Art Van Furniture. The Village location was, at the time it opened, only the fourth Scott Shuptrine Interiors store in Michigan, and the first stand-alone gallery.

“While we’re sad to see them go, I believe the Village is a sufficient draw that we’ll fill it,” Grosse Pointe City Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said. “It’s a very nice space. … (And) I really do believe the Village has a lot to offer.”

Grosse Pointe City officials have applied for the Village business district to be designated as a Michigan Main Street, which would help officials improve marketing, economic viability, design and maintenance. At press time, Tomkowiak said they hope to find out in the next week or two whether the Village proposal was selected for the statewide program.

The Scott Shuptrine space was formerly home to Jacobson’s Store for the Home and, later, Borders bookstore.

According to the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, Jacobson’s opened the Home Decorative Store — later renamed the Store for the Home — in November 1952. The home store was sold to Borders in 1997. Borders opened its doors at that location in 1998. The bookstore closed in 2011 after the Michigan-based chain declared bankruptcy. The building remained vacant from 2011 until 2014, when it was acquired by what is now known as Ascension St. John.

Art Van Elslander, who lived for many years in Grosse Pointe Shores, opened his first furniture store in 4,000 square feet of space on Gratiot Avenue in East Detroit, now Eastpointe, in 1959.

In February 2017, the company announced its pending sale to Thomas H. Lee Partners. Terms of the deal were not released. At the time, Art Van Furniture operated more than 100 stores across five states with 4,000 employees and had been named among the top independent and overall furniture retailers in the United States.

In an email on March 5, a spokesperson for Thomas H. Lee Partners said that investors, including THL, in the March 2017 acquisition of Art Van stand to lose 100% of their principal investment in the company and that they did not receive any dividends or capital returns from their investments.

Van Elslander died in February 2018 at the age of 87.  

The son of a Belgian immigrant who started work in the retail business at the age of 14 in a men’s clothing store, Van Elslander graduated from Detroit’s Denby High School in 1948, served in the U.S. Army and started a family before he got his start in the industry he would transform in the decades to come.

Van Elslander put his own support and that of his company behind many charities and causes, including Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade, Focus: HOPE and Forgotten Harvest. Ascension St. John Hospital, whose campus is in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Woods, was another major recipient of his generosity.

Through personal and foundation gifts, Van Elslander, his family and his foundation donated more than $21 million to St. John Providence. Brian Taylor, a spokesperson for Ascension Michigan, said by email in 2018 that Van Elslander was “St. John Providence’s largest donor.”